As the body ages, some of its systems and organs perform at less optimal levels. This is especially true for our sensory organs, such as the eyes or ears, which can never fully heal once they have sustained enough damage. Given the extreme delicacy of these tiny sensory systems, it can be quite easy to accidentally harm the inner workings of your ears in particular, so individuals should be sure to undergo regular checkups to ensure their auditory health is well protected for years to come.
The routine test you should be getting
You get your teeth cleaned every six months and your eyes checked every two years, so why wouldn't you get an exam for your hearing health just as regularly? Hearing tests can determine:
- If you have hearing loss. In some older adults, hearing loss can be mistaken for other ailments like dementia or decreased mental capacity - because the individual cannot hear as well as they used to, they may not respond as rapidly as they may have in the past. Additionally, hearing loss in teens and kids could be mistaken for lack of attentiveness.
- The degree of your hearing loss. While you may assume that only one of your ears has hearing loss, it is most common for both ears to have some type of hearing loss in them. Additionally, many patients who go in for a check up that may believe they have only minimal hearing damage may be surprised by how many sounds they are actually missing due to the degree of their hearing.
- What type of hearing loss you have. From tinnitus to Meniere's disease, there are a number of reasons why your hearing could currently be compromised. Because treatment can depend largely on the source of hearing loss, it's important to nail down exactly what condition your hearing loss stems from.
During your test, your doctor will likely begin by asking you a series of questions regarding your medical and auditory history. This portion of the assessment is usually called the case history, and helps medical professionals submit an adequate diagnosis and treatment plan.
After the initial questions have all been answered, the audiologist will use a lighted tool called an otoscope to peer inside your ear. This step is to ensure that the ear canal is free of any lose debris that could affect the outcome of the test. Finally, you will undergo a series of tests designed to determine your overall auditory capabilities, as well as the cause of hearing loss and the best treatment plan to protect your ears from any further damage.
Why you should be getting this test
Routine hearing exams may not be as prominently on your health radar as other health tests, but the effects of avoiding the audiologist's office can be more costly to your overall well-being than you think. Hearing health can effect:
- Brain health. Many of the brain's synapses function at their optimum levels when hearing abilities are at their highest, so by not getting the proper assistive listening devices or other hearing supplies you need, you may be limiting your neurological abilities as well.
- Emotional health. People with hearing loss will often (consciously or unconsciously) avoid certain social events due to their inability to understand their friends, colleagues or family members. By withdrawing themselves, these individuals may begin to feel more isolated, which can prompt feelings of depression and lack of confidence.
- Fewer opportunities. Hearing health can also impact individual's decisions to apply for new jobs or try new hobbies, for fear that they will not be able to understand a new instructor, or their new boss will not be accommodating to their condition. By getting your hearing tested, you can get the assistance you need to tackle these new arenas with higher levels of self-assurance.
Where to have the test performed
Adults who are concerned for their own hearing health can perform a self assessment to tell if an additional audiologic evaluation is required. If you've experienced the following symptoms, consider scheduling an appointment with your local audiologist today:
- Problems understanding people on the phone
- Hearing better out of one ear than the other
- Difficulty following a conversation with multiple people talking at one time
- Other house-mates or family members often complain that you've got the volume up to high on the television
- You have to strain to understand conversations
- Difficulty listening or hearing when background noise is present (i.e., talking to a neighbor while mowing the lawn)
- Trouble hearing a waiter or waitress in a crowded restaurant
- Dizziness, pain or frequent ringing in the ears
- Often asking for people to repeat themselves
- Everyone seems to mumble or does not speak clearly enough for your to understand
- Often responding with information or statements unaffiliated with the conversation at hand
- Trouble understanding the voices of women and children
Once you've established that you or your child requires professional testing to discover the extent of the hearing loss, you should first research which local and licensed audiologist would be right for your needs. Many communities have a number of options available, so finding a doctor that you are comfortable with is key.